Increasing risk of cancer in the workplace

Increasing risk of cancer in the workplace
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Trade unions demand that cancer be recognised as work related illness and calls on the European Union to maintain pressure on employers


Everybody knows that being a firefighter carries risks.

But long term problems are less known. Cancer has become their worst enemy, because of the toxic fumes they inhale during their interventions.

To find out more, Euronews spoke to the Belgian fireman Johnny Casier. Two years ago he was diagnosed with cancer. And now he has two open fronts: fight against the disease and fight against the administration, so that it recognizes that his cancer is linked to his profession.

"At the beginning you do not worry about the administration, only your illness is important. You care about your family, your wife and your children. But then you see how much you are paying, and you wait for the administration's recognition to be able to face the extra economic cost", he told us. 

 Two years ago, Belgium introduced new safety protocols that include cleaning of uniforms after each intervention but that was too late for Casier who has been working for more than twenty years...

Only in some countries like Canada or Denmark has the link between cancer and the work of firefighters been recognized. So the struggle continues, on this and other fronts.

Nearly 200,000 people die each year in the European Union as a result of work-related illnesses and accidents.

Around 100,000 are related to occupational cancers, so it has become the number one risk factor. The Confederation of European Trade Unions, ETUC, estimates that it represents 53%.

Work accidents

Accidental deaths are still a problem. The most affected sectors are construction, transport and storage.

Dom Mills, a French construction worker who has been in a wheelchair for ten years tells Euronews how it happened. "I had an accident, I fell from a seventh floor while installing the windows." After a while he was fired and currently receives a pension of 810 euros.

Trade unions demand measures to ensure the safety of workers and to ensure that accidents or illnesses are properly recognised. Last Friday they demonstrated in front of the European institutions.

"One of the reasons why we are here demonstrating is to ask the next European Parliament to force employers to respond, so that they stop escaping their responsibilities," Esther Lynch, general secretary of the European trade union ETUC told Euronews. 

Unions denounce new forms of precariousness that leads to accidents, such as delivery drivers and  slow deaths, like cancer, as well as stress and suicides.

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